Learning Compassion from a Special Needs Sibling
My daughter Brooke almost didn't make it into this world. She almost didn't make it because I considered terminating my pregnancy with her when I was 22 1/2 weeks along.... Yes, you read that right...I thought about aborting Brooke at a gestational age when there are actually babies of that same age fighting for their lives in the NICU. All because she has Down syndrome and a severe heart defect that I was assured by the maternal fetal specialist would make life for everyone unbearable should she be born. Most couples with a special needs child end up divorced I was told...and I was also told that my other children would find their sister not only an embarrassment but also a burden and bothersome... I was a wreck...my husband wasn't faring much better than me...but in the end, we decided that there was no way I could end my pregnancy, especially since it would be so late term...there are still times when I cry about it...the guilt I carry for what I almost did haunts me.... And apparently, all of that worrying was for nothing. Especially the part about Brooke's brothers and sister being embarrassed or burdened by her. And yes, I will admit that Brooke is only two, and there are plenty of years ahead for any issues to arise, but to that thought I ask, aren't all siblings bothered or embarrassed by each other at some point in life? Having Brooke in our family has taught my children more compassion than I could have dreamed imaginable. Because we've talked to our kids about Down syndrome and how Brooke will learn more slowly and need extra help all through life, they've been able to stop and look at other kids that aren't just like they are. In my son's kindergarten class last year, there was a little boy with some learning delays and lacking social skills, and his teacher told me how Jack always encouraged him to try his best and praised the other boy's work. At recess Jack would play with this other boy when the other kid's wouldn't because he was a bit different...too huggy sometimes, a little too rough other times...he just didn't quite know how to play with the other kids. But Jack would play with him, and he told me it's because maybe his friend in class has Down syndrome and he knew it was okay. Did the boy have DS? No, he doesn't. But because Jack's sister does, it made him look outside the box and befriend the boy no one else would....and that makes my heart sing with joy! Some people ask me if I worry about Brooke's future, about who will look after her God forbid something happens to me or my husband, and I say without hesitation that I know her siblings will always have her back and be there to make sure she's not only happy, but thriving in society and living a fulfilling life. I know this because they love her. And sure, they all may be young right now, but ask yourself, if something happened to your brother or sister and your parents were gone what would you do? Lock them up in a home or take care of them because you love them and want them to be happy? Exactly. Down syndrome isn't a burden. Brooke isn't a burden. She's a person. She's a daughter, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin, and a sister. And everyone loves her...regardless of how many chromosomes she has. Holly Waligora is a married mother of four young children who only has two hands, which is why if you ever see her in public she's usually running after one of them. When at home she can be found hiding in the bathroom with a book under the guise of scrubbing a toilet. Her family doesn't quite appreciate her humor, so she loves random strangers to read her words at Holly's House-Not a Perfect Mom's Blog.